Houston Open 2019 picks: An anonymous PGA Tour caddie and our expert panel makes (another) bold prediction
There is something different about the fall season this year on the PGA Tour. You have events, like this week's Houston Open, that are in new spots on the schedule. Instead of being the place where tour pros get in a final Masters tune-up, the Golf Club of Houston welcomes them in October, which leads to a few natural questions. Specifically, how will the new date impact how the course plays? After a ton of rain in the Houston area in previous weeks, the rough might be a little thicker than previous events, putting a premium on accuracy.
Of course, you don't have to do too much worrying about these differences between fall versus spring events. Our expert panel, which has correctly predicted three of the first four winners of the new, extended fall season, is doing the research for you. Once again, we have a PGA Tour caddie offering insight from the range and putting green at the Golf Club of Houston, thanks to our partnership with The Caddie Network; picks from Jason Sobel, senior writer at The Action Network, which is becoming the leader in sports betting and handicapping analysis, and it's growing its presence in golf; two of the most respected experts in the daily-fantasy community, Pat Mayo of DraftKings and Brandon Gdula of FanDuel; Lee Alldrick of FanShare Sports, which tracks DFS ownership and sentiment; and Columbia University senior lecturer and Ph.D. Lou Riccio, who uses predictive analysis and modeling to forecast winners in golf.
2019 Houston Open Picks To Win (Odds from FanDuel Sportsbook)
PGA Tour Caddie Guest Picker of the Week: Scottie Scheffler (22-1) — He’s a Texas kid. Even though he’s from Dallas, if a pro is from any part of Texas, they feel at home at any Texas event. That’ll be the case for Scheffler at a course he can man-handle. He’s got length to go along with the touch to keep a good round going. It’s just a matter of time before he breaks through.
Pat Mayo, DraftKings/Fantasy National analyst: Cameron Tringale (41-1) — Tringale has morphed into a different player this year. Always solid with his irons, he’s made nine of his past 10 cuts and improved his driving by a full stroke per event over his career baseline. He went from being actively bad to pretty good. It’s one of the season’s largest skill advancements from any player. Plus, he’s made six of seven cuts in Houston with three top-10 finishes since 2012.
Brandon Gdula, FanDuel/numberFire editor: Scottie Scheffler (22-1) — Scheffler hasn't played here and faltered with two 74s on the weekend in Las Vegas. But Scheffler's stats are too good: He ranks third in the field in strokes gained/tee-to-green over the past 50 rounds on the PGA Tour, telling us he's only a lukewarm putter away from converting his first win.
Dr. Lou Riccio, Columbia University: Henrik Stenson (9-1) — My model indicates that Stenson, for as low his odds are, might be underpriced. He is far and away the best player in this field, and his stats back up that talent gap. My model gives him nearly a 10-percent chance of winning, which is more than double the next closest player. This is Stenson's to lose, according to the numbers.
Jason Sobel, Action Network senior golf writer: Sam Ryder (45-1) — This is the perfect week to take a flier on a player you think is ready to win, but haven’t wanted to back against stiffer competition. For me, that's Ryder. Last season, he ranked 20th in the all-around ranking, which placed among the game’s household names and was second highest among players (after Sungjae Im) without a career victory. Ryder finished solo fifth in Houston the last time this tourney was held (March 2018) and had a T-18 in Vegas with ball-striking stats that were all in the positive numbers.
Golf Digest editors: Scottie Scheffler (22-1) — One of our editors was on-site last week at Vegas, and nearly half the people she spoke with said Scheffler will win this fall. In what's definitely the weakest field of the early season, it points to a breakout win for this Texas kid.
Lee Aldrick, FanShare Sports golf expert: Brian Harman (22-1) — Harman has six top-20 finishes in his last 10 events, including four top-10s. It’s no surprise to see that he ranks second in the field in strokes gained/tee-to-green over the last two months. Harman is also an excellent putter on fast Bermuda greens: According to FantasyNational.com, Harman ranks seventh in the field in strokes gained on fast/lightning greens.
Results from this season: We have predicted three of the season’s first four winners! Our Golf Digest Editors picked Kevin Na (70-1) as their sleeper pick last week. And Brandon Gdula picked Sebastian Munoz (65-1) at the Sanderson Farms Championship in addition to Joaquin Niemann (22-1) in the season opener at the Greenbrier as did Pat Mayo, Dr. Lou Riccio and Lee Alldrick.
Sleepers/Dark Horses That Could Win at the 2019 Safeway Open (odds from FanDuel Sportsbook)
PGA Tour Caddie: Shawn Stefani (160-1) — He’s from Houston. He knows the course as well as anyone, and he’s going to have a lot of support this week.
Mayo: Xinjun Zhang (55-1) — The Chinese bad boy followed up his T-7 at Safeway with a T-16 at Shriners, all on the back of extremely solid ball-striking. Zhang’s gaining more than two strokes on the field off the tee and on approaches in his last three starts and has proven he can win in the U.S. Zhang notched a pair of victories on the Korn Ferry Tour earlier this year and, frankly, minus a handful of names at the top, this is essentially a KFT event.
Gdula: Lanto Griffin (45-1) — With flat odds, we can load up on various bets in this range. Griffin stands out as a golfer with enough volatility in his performance that he can convert on a win. He has four straight top-20s, thanks mostly to his putter, but he offers positive betting value, per my win simulations.
Riccio: Austin Cook (65-1) — Sure, Cook has missed three straight cuts. And he's missed 12 cuts, compared to six made cuts since March. But the stats point to Cook having a chance to pop. He is 15th in opportunities gained over the last 50 rounds on FantasyNational.com, and he did finish in the top 15 at The Greenbrier a few weeks back. Iron play is his strength, and he can get a hot putter. My model, weighted toward overall results, puts his projected odds less than 30-1, so you're getting inflated odds on Cook based on his recent form.
Sobel, Action Network: Chris Stroud (100-1) — In the intro to my weekly column, I mentioned Astros owner Jim Crane, who rescued this event from oblivion. Well, that might not be his only impact this week. A few years ago, Stroud, who is a Houston native, struck up a friendship with Crane, one that turned into a business relationship, as Crane invested in a company founded by Stroud and other partners. In a week like this, without many studs in the field, it can pay to look way down the board. Stroud will be motivated to play well.
Golf Digest editors: Matt Jones (45-1) — These are LOW odds for Jones, but perhaps they're warranted. The Aussie won this event in 2014 with a playoff chip-in over Matt Kuchar. And he is playing well of late—with top-30 finishes in his past three events, including gaining 8.5 strokes on the field tee-to-green two weeks ago.
Aldrick, FanShare Sports: Zack Sucher (100-1) — Sucher has quietly put up some elite stats: He ranks fifth in this week in strokes gained/tee-to-green and Opportunities Gained over the last two months.
Players to Fade This Week (who will disappoint)
PGA Tour Caddie: Chris Stroud (100-1) — Some might be tempted here because he’s a local guy, but he'll probably be too amped up for this event.
Mayo: Cameron Champ (20-1) — Champ may be able to have at it because of his elite off the tee prowess, but since distance is mitigated at G.C. of Houston it takes away his greatest asset. He can win, sure, but I’ll be good with missing it at this short of a price.
Gdula: Cameron Champ (20-1) — Champ is an elite driver and leads the field in strokes gained/off-the-tee, but he doesn’t do anything else well enough to justify such a short number. With preferable plays right around his asking price—Scheffler and Harman—Champ is someone I’m avoiding.
Riccio: Cameron Champ (20-1) — My model backs up what the handicappers say: Put a bomber on a course where one's length advantage is negated, and you have someone who we're willing to fade in most forms.
Sobel, Action Network: Scottie Scheffler (22-1) — Don’t get me wrong: I’m a huge fan of Scheffler’s game. In fact, I think I’ve mentioned him in the weekly preview during each of his previous tournament starts since claiming a PGA Tour card. And I expect him to be a popular selection this week, with so few other viable options. One week ago, I would’ve been all-in, but that was before a 74-75 weekend in Vegas. On Saturday, he -4.88 strokes gained/tee to green; on Sunday, he was only slightly better at -3.24. I’m not naïve enough to think he can’t quickly rebound, but those numbers are alarming enough to stay away from a player I really like in a field I previously would’ve recommended him.
Golf Digest editors: Lanto Griffin (45-1) — We know this is a weak field. But 45-to-1 for Griffin? He's never had a top-10 finish in his PGA Tour career. Though he has three top-25 finishes the previous three weeks, it's a safe bet to say he will not win this week.
Aldrick, FanShare Sports: Henrik Stenson (9-1) — I prefer many players at the top range and mid-range, all of whom have been playing PGA Tour events of late, unlike Stenson. I'm fading him with every chance I get this week.
2019 Safeway Open: Matchups
PGA Tour Caddie: Pat Perez (+100) over Cameron Champ (FanDuel) — There are stretches on this course where you have to be super accurate. Give me Perez’s accuracy over Champ's bomb-and-gauge style. Pat's playing really well, as we saw with his third-place last week. He’s a good bet as the underdog in this match up: He's hungry. He’s an older player, but this course suits his style of play.
Mayo: Cameron Tringale (-105) over Sam Ryder (Bet365) — If I’m picking Tringale to win, almost even money to beat Ryder seems worthwhile.
Gdula: Brian Harman (-116) over Daniel Berger (FanDuel) — Harman is a golfer I considered picking to win, as his profile has morphed into that of a great all-around golfer over the past few months. He grades out better than Berger in strokes gained/off-the-tee and strokes gained/approach, the two most vital stats of the week in my opinion.
Riccio: Harris English (-108) over Russell Knox (FanDuel) — English is getting results. He started the fall season with two top-10s, so I'm willing to ride the hot hand, as my model points to English over Knox.
Sobel, Action Network: Matt Every (-110) over Michael Thompson (Sportsbook) — Let’s face it: Every isn’t a guy who’s usually on our radar. But he should be this week. Not only is he coming off a nice ball-striking week in Vegas, but since the beginning of 2018, he’s owned some success in Texas-based tourneys. Every was T-2 at the Byron Nelson last season, T-17 at the Charles Schwab and, most notably, T-8 in Houston the last time this event was played. Versus any golfer the books pit against him, Every should be a smart play.
Golf Digest editors: Pat Perez (+100) over Cameron Champ (FanDuel) — This is an example of the importance of shopping the market for the best line. On Sportsbook.ag, Perez is a -130 favorite. On FanDuel and Sportsbet, he's at even odds.
Aldrick, FanShare Sports: Brian Harman (+140) over Henrik Stenson (Sportbet) — Harman comes into the Houston Open all guns blazing. He ranks first for strokes gained/tee-to-green over the last two months and has played three events in the last month. Stenson will come in having not played a PGA Tour event since July.
Matchup results last week: Riccio: 1 for 1 (Tony Finau (+115) over Adam Scott); Mayo: 1 for 1 (Patrick Cantlay (+105) over Brooks Koepka); PGA Tour caddie: 1 for 1 (Phil Mickelson (+100) over Bud Cauley); GD Editors: 0 for 1; Gdula: 0 for 1; Action Network: 0 for 1.
Matchup results this season (assuming each matchup is a one-unit wager: Alldrick, FanShare Sports: 3 for 3 (up 2.50 units); Mayo: 3 for 4 (up 1.96 units); PGA Tour Caddie: 3 for 4 (up 1.95 units); Riccio: 2 wins, 1 loss, 1 push (up 1.06 units); GD Editors: 2 for 4 (down 0.28 units); Action Network: 1 for 3 (down 1 unit); Gdula: 1 for 4 (down 2 units)
Top 10 (odds from FanDuel Sportsbook)
PGA Tour Caddie: Sebastian Munoz (+500) — He’s obviously playing well, having already won the Sanderson Farms Championship. I think this course will play somewhat similar to there. There are a lot more water holes and trouble in Houston and it’s possibly longer, but with his length, he can get to the par 5s and the drivable par 4. He’s playing with house money and can let it go everywhere.
Mayo: Doc Redman (+900) — Redman's ball-striking strengths will play well here, and his weaknesses will be lessened. The youngster ranks fourth in this field off the tee over the past 50 rounds, per FantasyNational.com, and he might be below average on and around the greens, but that's OK. We talked about chipping already, and Houston has one of the highest one-putt rates inside 10 feet of any course on tour. So maybe Doc can make a few this week.
Gdula: Doc Redman (+900) — Redman has played a lot of golf lately but does rank 32nd in approach, 11th in birdie or better rate, and 10th in greens in regulation over the past 50 rounds among the field—according to Fantasy National. He’s a high-floor golfer and a great ball-striker.
(Photo by Chris Condon/PGA TOUR)
Riccio: Sam Ryder (+550) — Ryder is heating up. He finished T-18 last week, and he was around the lead after the early rounds in the season opener. Ryder finished T-6 the last time this event was held. I expect him to contend again this week.
Sobel, Action Network: Brendan Steele (+750) — That’s right, guys: #SteeleSZN is upon us. Two of his three career victories have come during the fall part of the schedule; the other happened to occur in the state of Texas, site of this week’s event. After four sub-70 scores and a final-round 65 only led to a T-29 finish in Las Vegas, expect Steele to benefit from tougher conditions in Houston, where scoring shouldn’t be as low as it was last week.
Golf Digest editors: Andrew Landry (+650) — Landry has some appealing stats (second in Opportunities Gained, 11th in strokes gained/approach and 13th in strokes gained/tee-to-green) over the past 50 rounds, according to FantasyNational.com. If he has a decent putting week, he could earn his second win in the state of Texas in as many years.
Aldrick, FanShare Sports: Harris English (+500) — The former Georgia Bulldog has two top-10 finishes in his past three starts, thanks to leading this field in strokes gained/tee-to-green over the last two months. He's also a great putter on fast greens, so these are attractive odds for someone who has made the cut in three of his four previous appearances at this course.
Top 10 results last week: Riccio: 1 for 1 (Webb Simpson, +250); GD Editors 1 for 1 (Patrick Cantlay, +135); Everyone else 0 for 1
Top-10 results for the year (assuming a one-unit wager): Mayo: 1 for 4 (+13 units); GD Editors: 2 for 4 (+4.85 units); Alldrick: 1 for 4 (+4.5 units); Action Network: 1 for 4 (+0.5 units); Riccio: 1 for 4 (-0.5 units); Gdula 1 for 4 (+0.3 units); PGA Tour Caddie: 0 for 4 (-4 units)
Mayo: Despite his proclivity for weekend meltdowns, Texas boy Scottie Scheffler should be able to string all four rounds of elite ball striking together surrounded by familiar conditions. Then there’s Lanto. Lanto loves birdies, as a rule, but the bogeys have dissipated so far in the swing season. He’s posted four top-20s in four starts to kick off the new season, and it’s actually five in a row if you include the final event of the KFT playoffs. At $8,000 on DraftKings, he’s simple underpriced.
Here's who I'd build my lineups around on DraftKings this week: Scottie Scheffler ($9,900); Cameron Tringale ($8,700); Xinjun Zhang ($8,000); Lanto Griffin ($8,000); Doc Redman ($7,200).
Riccio: Though I lean with the favorite here, I was able to make a pretty balanced build with the rest of my lineup. I'm going a little on a limb with Seamus Power, but you just need him to make the cut, and I like chances of you getting 6-out-of-6 through with this lineup.
Henrik Stenson ($11,400); Luke List ($8,500); Beau Hossler ($8,300); Martin Laird ($7,800); Austin Cook ($7,500); Seamus Power ($6,500).
Alldrick, FanShare Sports: Here's a lineup I like for this week: Brian Harman ($10,600); Matt Jones ($9,100); Harris English ($8,900); Austin Cook ($7,500); Harry Higgs ($7,400); Rafael Campos ($6,500).
FanShare Sports' Under The Radar DFS Pick of the Week — Austin Cook (FanDuel: $8,900; DraftKings: $7,500) — Cook has missed his last three cuts, which should lead to low ownership. However, Cook's skills match up for this course: He's 16th in strokes gained/putting on on lightning-fast Bermuda greens. And despite those missed cuts, Cook has been solid over a larger sample size: He ranks 36th in strokes gained/tee-to-green over the past two months and 16th in Opportunities Gained over the same period.
Gdula: On FanDuel this week, it’s really hard to avoid Henrik Stenson ($11,900) for head-to-head games, but he should be overwhelmingly popular. Avoiding him in tournaments could give your lineups a boost if he misses the cut.
There are value plays all over the board in a field like this, primarily Bronson Burgoon ($9,400), Jhonattan Vegas ($8,900) and Andrew Landry ($9,000).
Riccio: As you can. see, I have the same core here, just subbing Russell Henley, a former winner here, with Martin Laird.
Henrik Stenson ($11,900); Daniel Berger ($11,000); Russell Henley ($10,500); Luke List ($9,700); Austin Cook ($8,900); Seamus Power ($7,600).
About our experts
Dr. Lou Riccio, a PhD senior lecturer, teaches rational decision making at Columbia's Graduate School of Business and has served on the USGA's handicap research team for three decades. His predictive analysis and modeling helps him make expert picks for our column.
Pat Mayo is known as one of the pre-eminent experts in daily fantasy sports and golf handicapping specifically. Mayo is a 17-time fantasy sports-writers association finalist, the most of any writer this decade, and Mayo won the 2019 Fantasy Sports Writing Association Daily Fantasy Writer of the Year and Podcast of the Year awards, along with the Fantasy Sports Trade Association Best Video award. Mayo is on the board of governors at www.fantasynational.com. Here’s a link to watch his complete DraftKings preview of the 2019 Wyndham Championship.
Brandon Gdula, a senior editor and analyst for NumberFire, a FanDuel daily-fantasy analysis company, recently won the 2018 fantasy sports-writers association Golf Writer of the Year (congrats, Brandon!). Gdula also co-hosts the DFS Heat Check podcast.
Jason Sobel is a senior writer for The Action Network. To read The Action Network's full betting breakdown for the Houston Open, click here.
Lee Alldrick of FanShare Sports started out writing an article highlighting the best bargain plays for fantasy golf under his twitter handle @DKGolfBargains. His success at this prompted FanShare Sports to enlist him as a guest writer, which evolved into him writing the weekly Under The Radar article. As a UK based expert, Alldrick’s insight into European Tour regulars and low priced, low owned plays has provided an invaluable edge for readers when it comes to DFS GPPs.